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Making Music For 'The Hobbit'

Composer Howard Shore (howardshore.com)
Composer Howard Shore (howardshore.com)

Composer Howard Shore has written dozens of film scores. He’s worked with directors Jonathan Demme and Martin Scorcese, and he’s a frequent collaborator with David Cronenberg. But he’s probably best known for his work with Peter Jackson.

Shore wrote the scores for all three “Lord of the Rings” movies, as well as the two “Hobbit” films, including “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” which opens today. He’s won three Oscars for his work on “The Lord of the Rings” films.

As Howard Shore tells Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti, he sees the music that he writes for the movies as “a way to give clarity to objects, places, cultures, to moments in the story.”

Interview Highlights

On composing music for the dragon Smaug

“This is a very special dragon, and he’s a very powerful creature. He’s very sly, very cunning, sinister. He creates this sort of sickness in people, you know. He creates what we call, ‘dragon sickness.’ It’s almost a feeling; it’s a physical feeling that you get when you’re around him. … I’ve got the great story of Tolkien and the imagery, and I set to you. I mean, Smaug is a character that I felt came pretty easily.”

On what it takes to illustrate Middle Earth with music

“The compositional process really starts quite early. This is a rather large piece, it’s a large canvas, and there’s over a hundred themes and light motifs in the piece. So I must say when I started, quite like Tolkien, I believe, that you kind of put one foot in front of the other, and you kind of found your way through Middle Earth step by step.”

On writing over 100 pieces of music for the films

“I did it for clarity of storytelling. I mean it’s a very complex story, Lord of the Rings. By using the motifs, it was a way to give clarity to objects, places, cultures, to moments in the story. And it was a way to express differences in the culture.”


  • Howard Shore, Oscar-winning composer who wrote the music for the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films.

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